Here is a 30 second trailer for my documentary. It’s about the history and social impact of Chinese-Canadian restaurants through my memories of my family’s restaurant in Montreal, Canada in the 1950s.
Saturday night, my family had an emergency meeting of sorts. Our favorite Chinese restaurant, Papa Jackie, is closing for renovations for two months as of May 8th. My brother sent out a text alert Thursday announcing that he had made supper reservations for Saturday night at six o’clock. We responded quickly like any dutiful family member would when there’s a promise of a good meal. So there we were, eleven of us, squeezed around a table for ten. Every table in the restaurant was reserved and most likely, so was the next seating at eight. Continue reading
Pursuing a writing career while having a full-time job means I’m often working at home in the evenings and weekends. A lot of things have to take a back seat while I try to take the time to write and be creative. (I have to say I’m in awe of men and women who have a full-time job and children and still find the time to pursue their passion.) So when I have a burst of creativity or if I’m trying to make a deadline, cooking is one of the things that often falls by the wayside. Continue reading
I had no idea what I was in for when I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Sure, I was intrigued by the idea of writing a book in 30 days, but finding the time and energy after a full day’s work is another challenge. My only real hope is to write like crazy on the weekends.
One way for me to find extra time is to prepare meals for the week. Since it’s fall, I turned to one of my favourite soup recipes. It’s from the cookbook Anne Lindsay’s New Light Cooking, and is easy to prepare and flavourful. Continue reading
If you’re looking for something to make for Chinese New Year which will be on Thursday, February 19, 2015, how about homemade fortune cookies? Try this recipe from the blog, Cecile’s Cuisine.
A few Thursdays ago, I hosted an Asian Cooking Class for a fun group of women. Not only did we have a lot of fun, but we also learned to make many yummy recipes. Our menu consisted of Pot Stickers, Teriyaki Chicken, Sesame Infused Broccoli, Coconut Rice and Fortune Cookies. Yes, we made fortune cookies;-)
Did you know however not all Chinese restaurants offer Chinese Fortune cookies?!?! Yes. it is true. I learned the night of the cooking class that Fortune Cookies were An American tradition. Yep, it is true!!
According to Wikepedia, “Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and some other countries, but are absent in China. The exact origin of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century, basing their recipe on a traditional Japanese cracker. Fortune cookies…
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I can’t believe we’re in the last two weeks of summer! I didn’t finish my summer-to-do list like spending an afternoon plunging down a water slide, using an extreme heat wave as an excuse to have a Dairy Queen Blizzard for supper, and convincing myself (and others) that lying on a beach working on my tan is how a writer comes up with great, creative ideas.
One thing I do to help prolong that summer feeling is to make an old-fashioned ice cream soda, the way we made it when my parents owned a restaurant. A soft drink cost fifteen cents in the 1960s and we didn’t serve it from a can or a bottle. The restaurant had a real soda fountain complete with the taps with big handles that you pulled down for soda water, pumps for syrup and a fridge for ice cream. When a customer ordered a soft drink, we filled a glass with soda water and pumped in flavoured syrup to make either coke, 7-up, cream soda or cherry-coke.
To make an old-fashioned ice cream soda, take a tall glass, put in a couple of scoops of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and fill it with 7-up. If you want a coke float, switch the 7-up for coke.
It’s so delicious, it’ll disappear as quick as summer.
What are you doing to enjoy these last days of summer?
For the past few weeks, the St. Hubert restaurant chain has been running a commercial where the owner of a Chinese restaurant discovers St. Hubert has a $7.95 meal deal. Both of the actors are Chinese and speak in Cantonese with either English or French subtitles. The complaint is that the commercial is demeaning and offensive. It has drawn criticism and comments on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sparked a national dialogue on the stereotyping of Chinese-Canadians.
Do I think the St. Hubert commercial is stereotyping Chinese people? Yes, but not in a negative way. Is it demeaning? I don’t think so.
Television has not done a good job of depicting Chinese people. I watched the TV series Bonanza when I was growing up and found the character of the Chinese cook, Hopsing, kind of…confusing. My father and none of the Chinese men I knew had a long braid or behaved in a subservient way. Then there was the practice of casting Caucasian actors in Chinese roles, such as Charlie Chan who was played by three Caucasian actors and the TV series Kung Fu where David Carradine was chosen over Bruce Lee to play the lead role. There are a handful of Asians on prime time shows now, but basically unless there is a scene that takes place in Chinatown, it’s rare to see a Chinese person on TV.
The end of winter is a wet, sticky mess and I’m not talking about melting snow. It’s maple syrup season which means a visit to a Cabane à sucre for a feast. This past weekend, my nephew made reservations for family and friends at Érablière Raymond Meunier et Fils which is located in Richelieu, Quebec. Forget about counting calories and fat content because the numbers will be so high you’ll lose track. This is a meal where you add food to maple syrup.
The first thing we did when we got there was to make a beeline to the souvenir shack where they were handing out free donuts fresh out of the deep fryer. Delicious!
With the holidays approaching, there’s going to be alot of getting together with friends over brunch, lunch and supper. So, I thought I’d post an article I wrote about ordering a meal in a Chinese restaurant that was published in the Oh Canada! column in the October 2002 issue of Canadian Living magazine.
Bon appétit! Or should I say Chin Chin!
* * *
When my father was alive, we celebrated holidays and birthdays with family dinners in Chinatown. Combined with my older brother’s and sister’s families, we would commandeer the largest table at our favourite restaurant.
While we buried our heads in the menus, my father would sit back, cross his arms and seem to stare off into outer space. When the waiter arrived, we would shout out our favourite dishes by their numbers on the menu.
When it was my dad’s turn, he would ask about dishes that weren’t on the menu. The waiter would brief him on the delicate flavouring of duck tongue, fried intestines and stewed tripe. Any mention of bitter melon fermented with black beans would make my father’s mouth water. “But they would never eat it,” he would mourn with a nod in our direction, and sadly order something for us with beef, pork or chicken. After scribbling characters onto his notepad, the waiter would shuffle off to the kitchen. My dad would turn to us with a sigh of dismay, and say, “You don’t know how to eat!”
According to him, the best dishes were not printed on the stain-speckled plastic menus the waiter tossed onto the table; they were written on the white, pink or red sheets of paper that adorn the walls of many restaurants in Chinatown. Black brush strokes list delectable dishes that are unfamiliar to the North American palate. Being Canadian-born, I always felt that ordering a meal off the wall required special skills to crack the secret code – like Indiana Jones reading hieroglyphs. If only I had made it past Grade 1 in Chinese school.
When the waiter returned with part of our order carefully balanced along the length of one arm, my dad would lament the predictability of his Canadian-born children and grandchildren. Cantonese chow mein and lemon chicken were mainstays at our every meal. Oh, we enjoyed traditional dishes, such as Eight Enhancement Soup, chicken boiled in soy sauce and Cantonese lobster, but it was the writing on the wall that separated immigrant from Canadian-born Chinese.
“What is it?” I would ask when an unrecognizable dish found a spot on the crowded lazy Susan in the centre of our table.
“Oh, good stuff,” my dad would say, glowing in anticipation of eating his choice dish. “Nothing you like.”
I would eye it suspiciously and sniff its aroma. I would interrogate my father and the waiter on the ingredients. My dad would grunt his displeasure at my behaviour. Was this really just about the food, or had I missed the cultural boat by ordering from the wrong menu?
My Canadian-born Chinese friends also back away from the wall when we dine together. And if the waiter reads the specials off the wall in Cantonese or whatever is his native dialect that ultimately brings up another embarrassing point: we can’t understand Chinese either.
“Can’t read and can’t speak?” a waiter once exclaimed, echoing our parents’ disappointment. “Lemon chicken!” he sang out in heavily accented English as we slowly sank under the table in embarrassment.
My father passed away several years ago, and, though our families still gather for special dinners, the ones in Chinatown are less frequent. On those rare occasions, it’s my brother who – with the waiter’s help – ventures to order off the wall.
When an unfamiliar dish arrives, I still look at it with suspicion. But you know what? I really like lemon chicken.
I’m really excited about my book launch for Guitar Hero which will take place tomorrow, Saturday, November 9th at Babar Bookstore in Pointe Claire. I’ve been busy all week getting ready and planning what refreshments to serve. Since the story is about a Chinese family, I thought I’d bake almond cookies. My favourite recipe is from The Joy of Cookies by Sharon Tyler Herbst. These cookies don’t look like the ones you get in a Chinese restaurant after a meal, but they are yummy! I’ve brought some to work in the past and they disappear quickly.
Almond Cookie Recipe from The Joy of Cookies
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup lard, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
About 48 whole blanched almonds
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water for glaze
1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat lard, sugars and almond extract until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir in flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, blending well after each addition; dough will be very soft. Spoon into the center of a 15-inch length of plastic wrap. Fold long sides of plastic over dough. With your palms, roll wrapped dough into a log 12 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter. Twist ends of plastic wrap to seal. Freeze or refrigerate until firm, 1 to 4 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 to 4 large baking sheets. Cut chilled dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange, 1-1/2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Lightly press a whole almond into the center of each cookie. Brush rounds with egg glaze.
3. Bake 11 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on racks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week; freeze for longer storage.